Building B 2017-07-20¢  Building bridges is a sustainable way of linking two separate parties;it is

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  • Building Bridges


  • Editorial

    CONTENT BUILDING BRIDGES 4 From Trenches to Bridges 6 AFS hinterlässt Spuren 9 De l’Afrique du Sud à la Suisse: le projet Lungelo 11 Einfach einmal über die Grenzen gehen 13 Die Schweiz entdecken 14 Tausche Werkbank gegen Schulbank 16 Tempi Passati

    VOLUNTEER BASE 18 AFS Volunteer Award 20 A Glimpse into the AFS Network 22 AFS: Mitglied bei BENEVOL

    INSIDE AFS 23 General Assembly 2016 24 Membership & Donation 27 Calender – Upcoming Events

    Dear reader

    Building bridges is a sustainable way of linking two separate parties; it is basically what we do with our exchange programs. When we send young people on an ex- change, it may seem as a one-sided trip. But our exchange students aren’t tourists who go sightseeing and return with a few souvenirs. Our bridges aren’t one-way roads: We build bridges reaching out both ways, allowing both parties to go back and forth, becoming stron- ger with each crossing. Well-built bridges can go back to Roman times, over 2000 years old: what a great achievement!

    Bridges come in various sizes and forms. Some are simple, short and direct; a plank across a brook. Some reach boldly out across two conti- nents; some are delicate, made of knotted ropes, hazardous to cross... there are all kinds, but they have one thing in common: They link two sides, they make contact, they offer the possibility of communication, they are a go-between.

    The initial crossing is only the start: The exchange experience is inten- ded to imprint itself on the youths forever; the intercultural learning isn’t finished when they return home; it is rather a starting point for continuous intercultural communication. The bridge can, but doesn’t have to be crossed bodily again; relationships are built spiritually. The formed relationship between student and host family grows and chan- ges and lasts, sometimes outlasting generations: These bridges are built on love and understanding and become more beautiful in time. But the impact of the initial bridge goes way beyond: Everyone reached by the connection can multiply and extend their experience to other domains. Thus, new bridges are built; some start as tentative, fragile ones; some are based on compassion or curiosity. But the more we dare cross the bridges, the more understanding and tolerant towards the other side – and our own! – we become: to other family forms, different social, economic and political systems, to new ways of thinking and doing busi- ness, to various life-styles. By building bridges to unknown places we can set an example for others who will follow us.

    Read in this ACROSS about the many kinds of bridges that AFSers have been building, starting with our founders and continuing onwards.

    Suzanne Weigelt Chair of AFS Switzerland

    “Understanding languages and other cultures builds bridges. It is the fastest way to bring the world closer together and to truth. Through understanding, people will be able to see their similarities before differences.” Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem


  • 30 exchange students had the chance to attend a memorial ceremony dedicated to Richard Hall, the first AFS volunteer to die in WWI. In attendance of his surviving family, a special plaque was unveiled at the cemetery of Moosch, where he is buried.

    After this rather depressing day, all the participants were invited to the Château de Pourtalès, where a grand party was held for them. There it showed that the group could not only be serious and thoughtful, but also fun loving and outgoing.

    Of course, remembering is a good thing, but it doesn’t help much if you don’t think about what you could learn from whatever happened in the past. Therefore, Wednesday was the day the students started to reflect about what impact they could have in their direct environment. One of the most memorable parts of the whole week was a speech by Shabana Basij-Rasikh, a young Afghan woman who founded a girl’s boarding school in Kabul after her exchange year in the United States. Her example shows that you don’t need much experience or money to really make a difference in your community but rather passion, commit- ment and courage.

    Shabana not only encouraged the participants to think about what they could do themselves, but it also was the starting point for them to create a peace charter. Even though they only had very limited time to phrase their ideas, the final document was impressive. Consequently, the pride of the participants was almost tangible when they handed the charter over to delegates of the Council of Europe the following day – in written form and as a video.

    Thursday was already the last full day of the event before the students returned to their respective host families in France, Germany or Swit- zerland. After having spent a few hours in Europa-Park the grand finale was the dinner at the Colosseo hotel with good food, a lot of music and thus opportunity to dance, and a short review video about the past week. This emotional and visual highlight of the week only made it har- der for everyone to say goodbye.

    As mentioned before, this week certainly is one that the participants will not forget easily. They not only made new friends from all over the world and gained an additional host family in Strasbourg, but most im- portant the week encouraged them to think about how they could build bridges in their communities. Many students went home, their minds full of ideas and their hearts filled with enthusiasm and passion.

    Maria Bassi

    For the students, their very special week during their exchange year be- gan on Saturday October 31, when they all arrived in Strasbourg. After having been greeted by AFS volunteers from all over Europe, their Al- satian short-term host families picked them up right after. Just imagine – 150 host families all living in and around one city! Despite some train

    delays, finally all students were settled with their respective families and could enjoy their first sample of genuine French cuisine.

    The actual program started on Sunday afternoon with a symbolic walk across the Bridge of Kehl from France into Germany. On the German side of the river, the students and their host families were greeted by representatives of AFS France and Germany and of the German Minis- try of Education in the Villa Schmidt before everyone got back to the French side of the river for dinner. In spite of the party going on until late at night, all students were ready again the next morning for a visit to the Council of Europe. Apart from the impressive building, they were also awaited by George King III in a historic AFS uniform and an original AFS ambulance which could even drive a few meters! Of course, the student’s interest was aroused and they were all eager to learn more about AFS’ history as well as about WWI in general.

    After having spent a day at the Council of Europe on Monday and lear- ning a lot about AFS and WWI, the students had the chance to get a feeling of what the war 100 years ago could have felt like. A tour guide took them through the battlefield at Hartmannswillerkopf. Even though the weather was stunning, the atmosphere of the war could still be felt while walking through the trenches where so many soldiers died a century ago. After a short lunch break, a small delegation of about

    From Trenches to Bridges The first week of November 2015 is certainly one that will leave a permanent imprint in the minds of many of our current host students in Switzerland. Together with 160 other exchange students hosted in Germany or France at the time, they had the unique opportunity not only to discover the beautiful region of Alsace but also to learn about the roots of AFS and reflect about how they can have an impact in todays world. After all, the very first AFS volunteers were not much older than our current host students are. Fittingly, the whole event was named „From Trenches to Bridges“ and the participants not only reflected on WWI but also looked at the possibilities each of them has to create bridges in his or her personal environment.

    SHABANA BASIJ-RASIKH Shabana Basij-Rasikh was born and raised in Kabul. The first years of her childhood were overshadowed by the Taliban regime. This meant that, together with thousands of other young girls, Shabana wasn’t allowed to attend school. However, unlike many others, Shabana’s parents de- cided they wanted to provide an education for their daughters despite everything and sent her to secret school. Hearing Shabana talk about the experience of not being able to go to school openly, to know that by still doing so she put her own, her family’s and her teacher’s lives at risk, gi- ves you a feeling of what life was like under the Taliban. Many times, she begged her parents to just let her stay at home. She was tired of having to choose a different route to her school everyday, tired of having to disguise her schoolbooks as grocery, tired of always relying on one of her male relatives to look out for her safety.

    After the defeat of the Taliban, Shabana for the first time was able to at- tend school openly. Suddenly she found herself in classes with much older girls. This was when she realized how privileged she had been to attend school from early on. These other girls had missed out on so much! Many of them never learnt to read or write before getting married and conse- quently dropping out of school. Shabana however excelled at